Hearing damage may develop in any section of the ear. Hearing loss originating in the outer ear or within the middle ear is known as conductive hearing loss as these disorders keep sound from being effectively conducted through the hearing mechanism to the hearing-nerve receptors (the “hair cells”). Sources of conductive hearing loss include ear canal blockage from accumulated ear wax, damage or perforation of the eardrum, a fracture in the chain of small middle ear bones (the ossicles), a spongy-bone growth that stiffens the vibration of the middle ear bones (otosclerosis), or fluid accumulation in the normally air-filled middle-ear space.
The second, primary, type of hearing loss known as sensorineural hearing loss is commonly referred to as a nerve hearing loss. This loss most frequently is the result of prolonged or sudden exposure to intense noise or music or the result of structural deterioration with age. Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss may include hereditary factors, head trauma, viral infection, certain medications, systemic illness, and vasospasm. Sensorineural hearing loss can be of gradual onset or it can be a sudden hearing loss. Certainly it is possible to have both a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss in the same ear. This is known as a mixed hearing loss.